The veterans have been the main focus of Ohio State’s wide receivers this season.
With six returning receivers with fewer than two years of eligibility remaining, the core from 2017 appeared to be taking the vast majority of plays once again.
After the injury to junior wide receiver Austin Mack, Chris Olave had his opportunity.
“Early on I was kind of trying to make an impact on special teams,” Olave said. “With Mack going out, just stepped into that role, and it’s definitely an honor to be here and play.”
The freshman wide receiver has stepped into that role, and head coach Urban Meyer has taken notice.
“Boy, he’s going to be good, he’s way ahead of schedule,” Meyer said. “He’s going to be a fine player.”
Olave was a three-star recruit according to 247Sports Composite Rankings after transferring to Mission Hills High School in San Marcos, California, which cost him his entire junior season.
The freshman said his recruitment to Ohio State came only because the Buckeyes were interested in his high-school quarterback, four-star prospect Jack Tuttle.
“Coach Day was coming to see my quarterback,” Olave said. “My head coach and my quarterback told them about me, and then he waited till my mid-season [highlights] came out, and then he finally pulled the trigger.”
Interim wide receivers coach Brian Hartline has been impressed with what he has seen from Olave even before he stepped on the field for the Buckeyes.
“He told me he watched my film and he asked the coaches if they offered me yet and they said no, and then he’s like ‘What are you thinking?,’ so when I got here he kind of took me under his wing,” Olave said. “He’s one of the best coaches I’ve had, he’s teaching me things like on the field and off the field, so he’s kind of a person to look up to.”
Olave earned two catches for 41 yards against Michigan State on Saturday — one catch for 16 and one for 25 yards — doubling his reception total on the season.
The numbers aren’t eye-popping, but for a team that returned its entire receiving core, Olave said getting this opportunity so early was something he never expected.
“Coming into Ohio State I knew all the receivers were coming back, so I just wanted to come in, get better, compete, try to get on the field special teams or something,” Olave said.
And being ahead of schedule, Olave added he, “just came in, tried to learn the plays and everything, try to get everything down, and just work hard every day trying to earn a spot.”
Though he hasn’t caught more than two passes in a game this season, Olave is starting to earn that spot he has worked for all campaign.
Olave has at least three more games this season to prove himself as the guy after the veteran group ahead of them is gone. One of those veteran wide receivers, redshirt senior Parris Campbell, has seen what Olave can do.
“He’s just showed resilience, and made a huge third-down conversion for us,” Campbell said. “When his number’s called he’s just made the play, so he’s just shown resilience.”
There will be a lot of question marks next season for Ohio State’s offense, and the depleted wide receiver room will be one of the main areas of focus.
Of all the uncertainties that the Buckeyes will have, Campbell knows Olave isn’t one of them.
“I knew since day one when Chris stepped on the field he’d be a great player here,” Campbell said. “He’s going to continue to develop, and I think you guys are going to be really interested in seeing that kid grow.”